Heavy rain, mud­slides pos­si­ble as L.A. heads into a week of storms

The Sacramento Bee - - Capitol & California - BY RONG-GONG LIN II Los An­ge­les Times

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia could see seven straight days of rain as the re­gion gets hit with five storms that could last through Thurs­day.

Au­thor­i­ties warned mud­slides are pos­si­ble, both in the storms that hit Satur­day morn­ing and the se­quel — ex­pected to ar­rive Sun­day night and per­sist into Mon­day — which “could be the strong­est storm of the sea­son so far,” Na­tional Weather Ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Richard Thomp­son said.

“It’s just a train of storms,” Thomp­son said. He urged peo­ple liv­ing in and near the ar­eas burned in re­cent wild­fires to stay vig­i­lant.

Though the storms aren’t ex­pected to be as se­vere as the one that un­leashed dev­as­tat­ing mud­slides in Mon­tecito in 2017, killing 23 peo­ple and de­stroy­ing 130 homes, of­fi­cials warned that deadly flows of mud and de­bris can still hap­pen, even in a com­par­a­tively milder storm. A burst of rain over a small ge­o­graphic area could cause deaths.

“Peo­ple should still be cau­tious. Some­times you can get these del­uges that last about an hour, but that’s all you need to shake loose those hill­sides,” cli­ma­tol­o­gist Bill Patzert said.

On the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice’s new five-level scale of weather im­pacts, of­fi­cials fore­cast the risk of flows of mud, rocks and other de­bris in the re­cent burn ar­eas to be “el­e­vated,” in the mid­dle of a scale that ex­tends from “no im­pact” to “ex­treme” — equiv­a­lent to the storm that ended up pro­duc­ing the deadly mud­slides in Mon­tecito.

“I don’t think we’ll see a Mon­tecito event at this point,” Thomp­son said, al­though the fore­cast could change. “Any­one who lives in or near the burned ar­eas needs to re­main alert.”

The ef­fect from these storms could be the same or even greater than that of the storm last week­end that dumped mud from the burned land­scape of the Woolsey fire onto Pa­cific Coast High­way, trap­ping three cars up to 4 feet deep.

“If you’re on PCH this week, def­i­nitely un­cover your moon roof,” Patzert said. “Keep one eye up and one eye down.”

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia hasn’t seen a con­sec­u­tive string of storms like this in years, he added.

“It’s usu­ally less than 10 storms a year that make up our sea­son” of rain, Patzert said. “This is like half of what you’d get in an en­tire sea­son in a week.”

The back-to-back na­ture of the storms could be prob­lem­atic as an in­creas­ing amount of water soaks into the soil. “The longer it goes, the higher the chances of the hill­sides” be­com­ing un­sta­ble, Patzert said.

The storms are com­ing from the north Pa­cific Ocean, and some will have a sub­trop­i­cal com­po­nent, “maybe a lit­tle at­mo­spheric river boost,” Patzert said. “And you can see, it’s been pretty chilly lately.”

Though sci­en­tists have been mon­i­tor­ing El Niño con­di­tions in the trop­i­cal Pa­cific Ocean, the cli­mate pat­tern still hasn’t clicked into place.

The first storm is ex­pected to drop 1 to 2 inches of rain and per­haps up to 3 inches in cer­tain ar­eas in San Luis Obispo, Santa Bar­bara and west­ern Ven­tura coun­ties, while L.A. and east­ern Ven­tura coun­ties are ex­pected to get half an inch to 1.25 inches.

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